Helping ensure the long-term viability of polypropylene plastic as a recycled material will take all of us. Learn how we can make a difference together.
Polypropylene Recycling Coalition
The Polypropylene Recycling Coalition is focused on increasing access for people to recycle polypropylene through curbside recycling programs, ensuring more recycling processing facilities can sort the material successfully, and stimulating a robust end-market of high-quality recycled polypropylene for reuse in packaging. The Coalition is part of The Partnership’s Pathway to Circularity, an initiative creating scalable solutions to packaging and system challenges and accelerating the shift to the circular economy that uses fewer finite resources.
In July 2022, the Coalition marked two years of impact with 24 materials recovery facilities receiving nearly $7 million in grants to acquire upgrades in sorting technology and expand community recycling education. To date, these grants and their catalyzed impact have improved PP recycling for nearly 8% of all U.S. households and positively improved recycling for 20 million people, resulting in 25 million new pounds of valuable PP recovered annually. The transformative work of the Coalition led to a How2Recycle upgrade of polypropylene (PP) rigid containers to “Widely Recyclable” in the U.S., effective July 29, 2022. Only through the support of existing and future Coalition members, can we continue to support unlocking the environmental and economic benefits of polypropylene recycling and improving the system for all materials.
Residential recycling access for polypropylene bottles, jugs, jars, and tubs as of July 2022.
Increasing Access to Polypropylene Recycling
In early 2022, The Recycling Partnership’s Polypropylene Recycling Coalition and How2Recycle teams began working closely together to assess the potential for an upgrade of certain PP formats to “Widely Recyclable” eligibility under the How2Recycle program. Updated inputs were evaluated for the access and end markets criteria that originally led to PP being downgraded to “Check Locally” in January 2020.
Using the Sustainable Packaging Coalition’s 2020/2021 Centralized Study on Availability of Recycling for a prior baseline where PP rigid containers were reported as having a 59% access rate, the teams leveraged The Partnership’s National Recycling Database to evaluate the current U.S. access rate, which was reported at 65% as of July 2022. To evaluate the current state of end markets, the teams utilized The Partnership’s Circular Packaging Assessment tool to confirm the growth and strength of domestic end markets for PP.
The teams saw improvements in these two areas as largely attributable to the catalytic work of the Coalition, as well as industry investment and increased recognition of the value of PP as a recycled commodity.
Given these factors, PP bottles, jugs, jars, and tubs are now eligible for the “Widely Recyclable” designation as of July 29, 2022.
An Estimated 1.6+ Billion Pounds of Polypropylene to be Recycled
According to The Recycling Partnership’s 2020 State of Curbside Recycling report, some limited data from capture studies suggest there may be as much as 17 pounds of polypropylene available per year from a single-family household. This would place polypropylene at higher generation rates than both natural and colored HDPE. Total annual polypropylene tonnage by U.S. single-family households would be an estimated 827,000 tons or 1.65 billion pounds.
Change Begins with Education
The Polypropylene Recycling Coalition will continue the work of The Recycling Partnership to increase curbside access for polypropylene through education of residents, ensure recyclers can sort for polypropylene successfully in their facilities through grants for technology to MRFs, and maintain vibrant and robust end markets to supply high-quality recycled polypropylene for use in packaging by working with packaging producers.
Visit our PP Education page for free resources to educate residents about polypropylene recycling.
A Growing Market for Recycled Polypropylene
There is an increasing demand for recycled polypropylene. Learn more about these exciting polypropylene developments as presented by The Recycling Partnership and The Association of Plastic Recyclers to the California Statewide Commission on Recycling Markets and Curbside Recycling.
Download the Presentation
An Immediate Need
There is an immediate need to ensure the long-term viability of polypropylene plastic (No. 5 plastic) as an accepted and recycled material. The Polypropylene Recycling Coalition is the leading change agent and champion for the recovery and recycling of polypropylene. The overall goal of the Polypropylene Recycling Coalition is to increase curbside access for polypropylene, ensure recyclers can sort for polypropylene successfully in their facilities, and maintain vibrant and robust end markets to supply high-quality recycled polypropylene for use in packaging.
Polypropylene is used in an array of food and non-food packaging and has largely been collected in curbside programs and sorted in Materials Recovery Facilities (MRFs) under the broad category of “3-7” resins. Most MRF-specific resin sorting capacity is focused on PET and HDPE which are presumed to be available in higher quantities than polypropylene in the household stream. Current data suggests, however, polypropylene could have a higher volume in the recycling stream than both natural and colored HDPE.
What is polypropylene?
Polypropylene (PP) is a type of plastic, sometimes referred to as number 5 plastic. Polypropylene is used in an array of food and non-food packaging. You can find it used in everyday items in your household like food packaging and beverage containers: yogurt cups, butter containers, coffee pods, apple sauce or pudding cups, and much more.
Is polypropylene recyclable?
There are many communities across the U.S. today that successfully recycle polypropylene. It is a material that can be successfully sorted at a material recovery facility (MRF) and has existing domestic end markets where it is reprocessed and can then be used in new products ranging from automotive parts to personal care and food packaging.
Is the Coalition still actively recruiting members?
Yes. We welcome any companies who would like to be a part of this initiative and encourage you to reach out to The Recycling Partnership to hear more about how you can get involved. Together, we can stimulate a system-wide shift to increase the capture of polypropylene and demand of recycled content. We encourage all companies that utilize polypropylene to be part of the solution.
Do you have to be a member of The Partnership to join the Polypropylene Coalition?
The Recycle Partnership’s mission is critical to the success of the Polypropylene Coalition. We are a re-granting action agent, and we’re the only organization investing dollars and mobilizing people, data, and solutions toward two priorities; investing in communities to affect measurable change and restore trust in the recycling system, and collaboration and investment to create a circular economy for packaging and materials, supporting a better system of the future. To join the Polypropylene Coalition, companies must also be a member of The Recycling Partnership at the Associate level or above.
Why did The Recycling Partnership decide to work on polypropylene?
The Recycling Partnership’s Pathway to Circularity methodology and emerging strategic assessment process provides the guidance to address unique challenges of specific packages and materials. With the recent announcements about challenges facing polypropylene recycling we knew there was action needed. We stand by polypropylene and its viability in the circular economy. When recycling facilities have access to advanced sortation technology, polypropylene is a valuable commodity to recycle and can be continually remanufactured. Polypropylene has important and unique performance properties. Through the Polypropylene Recycling Coalition, we are taking action to improve the circularity of this material. Now is not the time to step away from polypropylene but to lean in. Together, we can stimulate a system-wide shift to increase the capture of polypropylene and demand of recycled content. We encourage all companies that utilize polypropylene to be part of the solution.
Thank you to our partners and founding members.